The Peace and Joy of Easter

By Sr. Onellys Villegas, MHSH

 On Easter Sunday, we are gathered in contemplation of the risen Christ.
We feel imbued with the same wonder as Mary Magdalen and the other women who went to Christ’s tomb on Easter morning and found it empty. That tomb became the womb of life. Whoever had condemned Jesus had deceived themselves that they had buried his cause under an ice-cold tombstone. The disciples themselves gave into the feeling of irreparable failure. We can understand their surprise, then, and even their distrust in the news of the empty tomb. But the Risen One did not delay in making himself seen and they yielded to reality. They saw and believed!

Two-thousand years later, we still sense the unspeakable emotion that overcame them when they heard the Master’s greeting: “Peace be with you.” … “La Paz sea contigo.”

Even now we have this same desire, as our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are suffering and dying unjustly.  We all struggle with the question of suffering. God sees and understands what we cannot. Not only is God in control, we can trust in God’s goodness even in the midst of our suffering. God says to us:

“I am with you, and I will not leave you.” His promise is that one day suffering will end, but until then God will be with us. One day it will all make sense. But in the meantime, we do not suffer alone.

Today is the day of Easter joy. This is the day on which Jesus
appeared to people who had begun to lose their hope and opened their eyes to what the scriptures foretold: that first he must die, and then he would rise and ascend into his father’s glorious presence. May the risen Lord breathe on our hearts, souls, and minds, and open our eyes that we may know him in the breaking of the bread and follow him in his risen life.

MAY WE EMBODY  THE PEACE OF THE RISEN CHRIST!

Happy Easter!! Felices Pascuas de Resurreccion!

 

Lent: Making All Things New

A Reflection for Ash Wednesday

By Bernadette A. Sahm

 

“Ash Wednesday is full of joy … The source of all sorrow is the illusion that of ourselves we are anything but dust.”
-Father Thomas Merton

It is that time of year when we anticipate more sunshine and the beauty, color, and newness that the spring season affords us. As I walk through my garden, I notice things that are dormant after months of winter weather. My hydrangeas seem to be dead and brittle and without life. My faith knows better. Looking closely, I see the burrowed closed ends of what I believe will return as hot pink and baby blue flowering hydrangeas.

“Lent comes providentially to awaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.” –Pope Francis

Lent and spring are synonymous for me as they both represent the opportunity to make all things new again. We know what a garden can be with proper nurturing. and what it will look like after it receives water, sunshine, and food to grow. Lent affords us the opportunity to reflect on all our relationships and to grow them with love and in faith. God wants us to see His face in all living things.

We begin again in Lent; we witness signs of new life, and we too can create that new life when our hearts open and are birthed again. Even a heart that has been dormant can spring back to life.

There is nothing like the beauty in a flowering rose, yet it shows us; “non c’e rosa senza le sue spine’” (translation – there is no rose without its thorns). Lent does not have to be solely about giving up our favorite foods and drink, but it can remind us to forego hatred and lack of forgiveness and instead, build a pure and clean heart.

May your Lenten season be filled with an abundance of love, kindness, forgiveness, grace and all things beautiful.

Bernadette Sahm is the Director of Mission Advancement for the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.

The Color of Joy

A Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent

By Sr. Susanne Bunn, MHSH

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121221.cfm

When I was a little girl and a teen, pink was my favorite color.  On the third Sunday of Advent, the rose vestments, the Advent candle and the readings still lift my heart.

I can picture the teen-aged Mary reading the first reading, listening to God speak to her:  “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion. Sing joyfully, O Israel….The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty Savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love…”.Maybe those words were singing within Mary when the Angel Gabriel came.

It is a challenge to carve out time to read Scripture.  If I read the Sunday readings a few days before Mass, the message comes alive as I listen to the Word proclaimed.  When the bread and wine are brought forward, I put my week on the altar with those gifts.  Jesus is present offering himself completely to Abba God, and he takes me with him.

I feel sad when people say, “I don’t get anything out of Mass.” Doing the work of preparing the readings and of offering ourselves with Jesus to the Father will make it possible for us to get a whole lot out of every single Mass.  Someone once said that if we make the effort to remember one single word from the readings, the Holy Spirit can feed us all week with spiritual food from that Mass.

After my years in Colorado and Arizona, green became my favorite color.  Most Sundays of the year, the vestments are green.  Father Caimi, a former pastor of a church where I served, said that colors mark out special celebrations, but when the priest wears green, it is ‘growing time’.”  Rose is worn only twice a year.  Today is special.  We continue with Advent, Christmas, Holy Family Sunday, Epiphany, and Baptism of Our Lord. Stay connected to Mass as we celebrate each joy.  Stay connected when we return to green vestments and ‘growing time’.

 

We Need a Little Advent

By Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Maybe we need more than a little Advent this year. Although we have come through the worst of the pandemic, we are not out of the woods. There are yet concerns about the spread of the virus and its variants, along with the associated disruptions in our lives. The anger, stress and at times, outright violence that have been displayed by some among us are disturbing, to say the least. Bitter partisan political divisions still rage.  Who among us would not ask for some hope, some faith, some joy, or some peace/justice right now?

As we consider the Advent wreath, with candles representing hope, faith, joy and peace/justice, we are invited into a place of stillness where we ponder the promise of this season. On this second Sunday, we have lighted the candles representing hope and faith.

If you’re wondering what to pray with this week, some of the responsorial psalm refrains from the liturgies remind us of God’s saving presence and action in history. These same promises are made to us – both now and into the future.

Sunday: The Lord has done great things for us, we are filled with joy. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120521.cfm)

Monday: Our God will come to save us. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120621.cfm)

Thursday: The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120921.cfm)

Friday: Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121021.cfm)

Saturday: Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121121.cfm)

Spend some time with these psalms.  Do you believe in these promises?  Do you find hope and/or faith?  Joy and/or peace?  Ask God for what you need this Advent.

Maranatha!

Rejoice!

A reflection for Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent

By Sr. Amarilis Flores Arrioja, MHSH and Sr. Rosa Sofia Toledo, MHSH

Readings: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121320.cfm

The Third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete” Sunday, which in Latin means “Rejoice” — be joyful, be hopeful, be cheerful and glad.  The Canticle of Mary (“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”)  invites us to recite our own canticle of praise and joy to God, our Savior.

Liturgically, this Sunday of Advent is a joyous celebration flowing from the Spirit into our own hearts as we prepare to celebrate that the coming of our Savior and our Redeemer, in human flesh, is near.  In a world faced with so many threats in our times, particularly the Pandemic crisis, where some of our loved ones have died “alone,”  the Word of God comes to console the brokenhearted; to lift the sorrowful and neglected, to bring healing to the sick and hope to the hopeless. The Prophet Isaiah invites us to rejoice in the Lord with our whole heart and to find in our God the joy of our soul.

In the first letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians, we are reminded to rejoice in the Lord always, at all times, no matter what the circumstances of our lives are. He shares with us key exhortations on how to live the Christian life joyfully, as we prepare to celebrate the first Christmas, as well as being vigilant to the ongoing manifestation of the Lord who continues to come, and who will come in glory at the end of times.  Let us, then, pause to ponder on the message of Saint Paul in this Advent season:

  • Rejoice at all times.
  • Never cease to pray
  • Be grateful in all circumstances
  • Do not extinguish the fire of the Spirit
  • Do not underestimate the prophetic utterances
  • Examine all and keep what is good
  • Renounce any kind of evil

Like Paul, let us claim this prayer as our own:  “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

As we enter more fully into the Advent joyful season, let us reflect on the following questions:

  1. What am I most grateful for to the God of my life?
  2. At this time, where is our world crying out for true joy?
  3. In Saint Paul´s letter to the Thessalonians, which exhortation stands out challenging me to live more fully in Christ during this Advent season?

(Srs. Amarilis and Rosa Sofia minister to  people in Manzanita and surrounding areas in Venezuela)

 

 

 

A Reflection for the First Sunday in Advent

By Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Reading I: Isaiah 2:1-5
Responsorial Psalm: 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: Romans 13:11-14
Gospel: Matthew 24:37-44

advent wreath one candle The readings for this first Sunday in Advent present us with a number of contrasts.  In the first reading, Isaiah offers the nation of Judah, facing threats from within and without, a vision of unity, peace and justice.  What might it have been like for those beleaguered people to hear the words: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.  O house of Jacob, come, let us walk In the light of the Lord?”

Paul presents the contrasts of darkness and light, wakefulness and sleep, destructive behavior versus putting on Christ. His urging of preparation and watchfulness echo the Gospel’s message of vigilance and preparation for the coming of the Son of Man, “at an hour you do not expect.”  The message seems to have an ominous tone, but could it have been a message of hope for Matthew’s listeners, and can it offer hope for us?

To enter into Advent is not to deny the darkness, divisions and threats that face us, but to embrace the opportunities to trust in God’s promises and to be bearers of God’s love, light, peace and justice in our world.

In his poem, Advent, the late Daniel Berrigan, SJ, offers us these words of hope and challenge:

Advent

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss – This is true: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction – This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever – This is true: For unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of Peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world – This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church, before we can be peacemakers – This is true:  I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young shall see visions, and your old shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for the liberation of humanity, for justice, human dignity, and peace are not meant for this earth and for this history – This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice.

Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ — the Life of the world.

(Source: Testimony: The Word Made Fresh, by Daniel Berrigan.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004).

 

For Reflection:

How do you find yourself at the beginning of this Advent season?

What graces will you pray for during this season: trust in God, maintaining hope in the face of challenges, compassion for suffering people, other things?

How will you be a bearer of God’s love, light, peace and justice?

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

week_of_prayer_logo_216wDay 2, Called to be Messengers of Joy

Scripture

  • Isaiah 61:1-4, The spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.
  • Psalm 133, How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
  • Philippians 2:1-5, Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
  • John 15:9-12, I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

Meditation

The joy of the Gospel calls Christians to live the prophecy of Isaiah: “The spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has appointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.” We long for Good News to mend our broken hearts and to release us from all that binds us and makes us captive.

When we are saddened by our own suffering, we may lack the vigor to proclaim the joy that comes from Jesus. Nevertheless, even when we feel unable to give anything to anyone, by bearing witness to the little that we have, Jesus multiplies it in us and in the people around us.

In the Gospel Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” and “love one another as I have loved you.” It is in this way that we discover his joy in us, so that our joy may be complete. This mutual love and mutual joy is at the heart of our prayer for unity. As the psalmist says, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”

Prayer

God of love, look upon our willingness to serve you despite our spiritual poverty and limited abilities. Fulfil the deepest longings of our hearts with your presence. Fill our broken hearts with your healing love so that we may love as you have loved us. Grant us the gift of unity so that we may serve you with joy and share your love with all. This we ask in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For Reflection:

  • What smothers joy in the world and in the churches?
  • What can we receive from other Christians so that Jesus’ joy may be in us, making us witnesses of the Good News?

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 1

week_of_prayer_logo_216wBackground:

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity gives Christians an annual opportunity to continue their quest for the unity they already share in Christ. It is also a time to gather in praise of the Triune God and to deepen the understanding of the ecumenical movement. By joining in this annual celebration Christians raise their voices, hands and hearts to God seeking the fulfillment of the prayer of Jesus, the Son of God, “that they all may be one.”

The Week of Prayer also invites those who participate to use it as an opportunity to examine the effectiveness of the ecumenical movement in seeking to end the divisions among Christians. From the smallest to the largest communities, from all cultures, races and language groups, from all the baptized to all those in ordained ministry, the Week of Prayer is also an opportunity to ask examine the level of support they have given to this important movement in the life of the Church. An accounting of each Christian’s discipleship and faithfulness to the proclamation of the Gospel—the good news of reconciliation—can be taken every year during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

This year’s theme is, “Called to Proclaim the Mighty Acts of the Lord”. During this week, we will post daily scripture selections, meditations and questions for your reflections.  We invite you to enter into dialogue with other readers by posting comments and commenting on the thoughts that others post.

Day 1, Let the stone be rolled away

Scripture

  • Ezekiel 37:12-14, I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.
  • Psalm 71:18b-23, Your power and your righteousness, O God, reach the high heavens.
  • Romans 8:15-21, We suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
  • Matthew 28:1-10, He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.

Meditation

In our world today there is much grief and pain; wounds inflicted which are difficult to forgive. All of this is like the large stone which covered the mouth of Jesus’ tomb. Wounds such as these imprison us in a spiritual grave.

But if, in our suffering, our pain is united to his pain, then the story does not end here, locked in our graves. The earthquake of the Lord’s resurrection is the earth-shaking event that opens our graves and frees us from the pain and bitterness that hold us in isolation from one another. This is the mighty act of the Lord: his love, which shakes the earth, which rolls away the stones, which frees us, and calls us out into the morning of a new day. Here, at this new dawn we are re-united with our brothers and sisters who have been imprisoned and hurting too. And like Mary Magdalene we must “go quickly” from this great moment of joy to tell others what the Lord has done.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you have always loved us from the beginning, and you have shown the depth of your love in dying for us on the cross and thereby sharing our sufferings and wounds. At this moment, we lay all the obstacles that separate us from your love at the foot of your cross. Roll back the stones which imprison us. Awaken us to your resurrection morning. There may we meet the brothers and sisters from whom we are separated. Amen.

For reflection:

  • What are the events and the situations of our lives and the circumstances that make us lock ourselves in the grave—in sadness, grief, worries, anxiety and despair?
  • What keeps us from accepting the promise and joy of the resurrection of Christ?
  • How ready are we to share the experience of God with those whom we meet?

 

 

Pope Francis Encyclical 2015

“Laudato Si”

This video was released on YouTube by the Vatican on June 18, 2015, the date that the Encyclical on the Environment was issued.
 
The captions are in Italian, English and Spanish.

Este video fue publicado en YouTube por el Vaticano el 18 de junio de 2015, la fecha en que se emitió la encíclica sobre el Medio Ambiente. Los subtítulos están en Italiano, Inglés y Español .

Christmas Blessings!

A Reflection for Christmas by Sister Loretta Cornell, MHSH President

shepherdsThe Shepherds said to one another, “Let us go then to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in a manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what they had been told by the shepherds….The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

–Luke 2:15-18; 20

 Like the Shepherds, we, too, are to make known the message – The Good News of Jesus. It is in our words of charity and in our deeds of love. Jesus is present in our actions, words and charity.

God is peace; let us ask our God to help us be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God’s goodness.

–Pope Frances

 We remember that God was revealed in Glory through Jesus and continues to bring wonder, joy, hope, compassion, understanding, blessings and Love—the love that is born in each of us every day and dwells among us.

The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart wish you a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.